Asian Champions League 2015 runner-up, Al-Ahli, have officially been disqualified from the Arabian Gulf Cup. After a run that saw them top their group and reach the semi-finals, where they defeated local rivals Al-Shabab, the Disciplinary Committee of the UAEFA announced their elimination due to the ineligibility of new signing Khamis Esmail Zayed from Al-Jazira in January.
Signed on January 18th 2016, Esmail participated in the Arabian Gulf Cup semi-final against Al-Shabab just 24 hours later as a substitute. In hindsight, it’s a substitute that denied Al-Ahli the chance to add another trophy in their cabinet. Typographical errors were reportedly the issue in Al-Ahli’s paperwork, which was completed in time. Although despite the fact that Al-Ahli claim they should be fined (“a breach of Article 80 was punishable by financial sanction but not the overruling of results”) rather than disqualified, this is not the first or the second time that the UAE league leaders or the UAE football association has made this kind of mistake.
Adnan Hussein, Al-Ahli vs. Al-Wahda | September 20th, 2013
The UAEFA, under the presidency of Yousef Al-Serkal since 2012, held a meeting with its Disciplinary Committee on Thursday the 19th of September. Adnan Hussein was sent off for Al-Ahli in the reserve league during the first week and in the meeting on the following Thursday with the UAEFA Disciplinary Committee, they concluded that Adnan Hussein would be banned for his next competitive domestic match. Yet, the following day he played for Al-Ahli’s senior team as they turned out victors against Al-Wahda.
The reason for the UAEFA’s failure to inform Al-Ahli of the decision according to them was because the following day – when the second matchweek of UAE League was set to commence – was not a working day (Friday). That’s right, the UAEFA didn’t inform Al-Ahli immediately after their meeting of their player who would be banned, and had decided to hold off until they returned to work on Sunday; the day the ordinary working week starts in the United Arab Emirates.
Arif Al-Awani, President of the Board of Directors of Al-Wahda Company at the time, claimed they “were not responsible for the reasons that Al-Ahli weren’t informed about Adnan Hussein’s ban by the UAEFA.” He continued, “myself and everyone else in the sports industry in the UAE knew that Adnan Hussein was banned and as long as the decision was made before the game began, we have a right.” Al-Awani also added that he believed his team should have been awarded 3 points.
However, it was decided that Adnan Hussein would be fined 10,000 AED and banned for 2 matches while the result of Al-Ahli and Al-Wahda stayed intact. A costly mistake made by the UAEFA.
Adnan Hussein, Al-Ahli vs. Al-Dhafra | January 3rd, 2014
Al-Ahli had defeated Al-Dhafra 3-1, but little did anyone know that substitute Adnan Hussein was actually ineligible after the three yellow cards he received. The rules of the PLC, the Committee of the UAE’s Premier League, state the following: “56.1.1. Players shall be automatically suspended for one (1) match in the competition after obtaining three (3) single yellow cards in the Competition and this suspension shall be served in the same Competition;”
Yet Adnan Hussein – the culprit for a second time in 6 months! – played for Al-Ahli as a late substitute and was completely guilty of it on this occasion. Their win against Al-Dhafra helped them move 6 points ahead of local rivals Al-Shabab in 2nd, but the lead was cut down to 3 points after a decision was made to disqualify Al-Ahli from that match, seeing a forfeit in favour of Al-Dhafra.
The points did not benefit Al-Dhafra, neither did they affect Al-Ahli come the end of the season. Al-Dhafra finished 20 points above the relegation zone and 8 points behind a regional competition spot, so give or take 3 points wouldn’t have changed much. Al-Ahli also won the league ahead of Al-Wahda, ironically, the team that demanded a forfeit from Al-Ahli at the beginning of the 2013-14 season. Although Al-Wahda had no grounds for another complaint by losing out on the title to Al-Ahli, who finished a massive 16 points ahead.
Al-Ahli issued a statement following the second player eligibility issue they had in the space of a year: “We have found out from our weekly meeting to review club related issues that player Adnan Hussein was not supposed to play the match against Al Dhafra as he is suspended with 3 yellow cards that he, and it was a big human error from the team’s secretary that he failed to inform the coach about the suspension therefore we have initiated administrative procedures and taken a review of our internal systems so we can work to prevent a repeat of this serious human error, which is the first of its kind at the club.
“We reach out to our loyal fans and want to show our commitment to ensuring a repeat of such a mistake never happens.”
UAEFA transfer window crisis | October 3rd, 2014
The UAEFA decided to extend the summer transfer window of the 2014-15 season by 2 hours to allow Baniyas to register Mohammad Nasser and Saad Surour, Fujairah to register Ahmed Ibrahim and Ahmed Jumaa for Al-Shaab. The most significant problem came in the form of former Valencia midfielder Hugo Viana, the only foreigner in the list of players needed to be registered past the 11th hour.
FIFA rejected the decision to extend the transfer deadline, putting Al-Serkal and the UAEFA in a tricky situation. The latter had just approved a two-hour extension essentially giving the green light to Al-Wasl, Baniyas, Fujairah and Al-Shaab to do business at such a late stage. While the local players came out from the situation unscathed, it was Viana who went 3 months without football. Viana signed his papers with Al-Ahli confirming the termination of his contract and signed with Al-Wasl after the 11th hour…
The foreign player rule in the UAE and Asia generally allows for 3 foreign players + 1 Asian nationality foreigner to play for a squad, which meant that while the local players were allowed to return to their previous clubs and play there until the end of the transfer window, Hugo Viana was left out in the cold. Yet, despite that rule, the local players too had to suffer a period of time without playing competitive football because of registration issues.
Baniyas board member Mohammad Al-Menhali was appalled at the working relationship between the UAEFA and clubs. “We don’t know, we’ve heard only in newspapers, on Twitter and social media but haven’t heard anything from them [the FA], and that’s why we’re really annoyed. We can’t wait anymore. They have to come back to us with a ‘yes, stop them’ or a ‘no, they can play’.”
Mohammad Al-Ameri of Al-Wasl wasn’t happy with the situation either: “We did everything by the book. Right now, the FA’s decision making is very slow, so we’re playing matches with three foreign players, which is unacceptable.
“The FA’s main principle is equality for all clubs, but it’s not equal rights. With all respect, this is an injustice for Al Wasl. The FA said the players shouldn’t participate with their teams, but they don’t have the right to say that.
“The FA are responsible for the registration, but we’re the ones who sign the contracts with the players. It is the club’s decision to change our player.”
Mohammad Sabil, Al-Ahli vs. Al-Nasr | October 10th, 2015
In the 2015-16 Arabian Gulf Cup, the Khamis Esmail situation wasn’t the first problem Al-Ahli endured over the course of their campaign. Mohammad Sabil came in for Al-Ahli to play against Al-Nasr, a match in which Al-Ahli defeated their Dubai rivals 2-0 with Sabil creating one of the goals.
Al-Nasr claimed that the player wasn’t registered for the Arabian Gulf Cup, meaning he wasn’t allowed to play for Al-Ahli. This is not the first time this issue popped up, because Sabil was signed in 2012 on a free from Al-Nasr without compensation being paid by Al-Ahli to Al-Nasr for developing the player at the club’s facilities since he was 12 years old.
Nevertheless, the Sabil case was dismissed according to Salim Bahyan Al-Ameri, President of the Appeals Committee, who claimed that there was no truth to the Sabil rumours. “The participation of Mohammad Sabil with Al-Ahli against Al-Nasr is valid, as he has a contract until 2018. We received the confirmation of that back in 2014, and he has a valid playing card too, therefore he is able to participate with Al-Ahli.”
That ended speculation, although after the Khamis Esmail decision made at the beginning of this week, the Sabil case has resurfaced and Al-Nasr don’t want to back down after Al-Shabab got what was essentially a free pass into the final due to Khamis Esmail’s ineligibility.
Oussama Assaidi, Al-Ahli vs. Al-Hilal | 20th October, 2015
Once again, a substitute brought trouble for both Al-Ahli with the UAEFA at fault for the whole situation occurring despite Al-Hilal’s complaint and appeal being dismissed. Yet Oussama Assaidi, the man who could barely get a game at Liverpool came on for Al-Ahli in the AFC Champions League semi-final second leg against Al-Hilal. Al-Ahli were tied at 2-2, out on away goals after being held 1-1 in Riyadh.
Oussama Assaidi’s introduction didn’t do Al-Ahli too much, but in the end he did play a role – albeit a very limited one – in helping Kwon Kyung-Won score a 95th minute winner against Al-Hilal. The whole nation erupted after that goal, with it being the first time an Emirati team reached the final since Al-Ain in 2004.
The happiness was halted a day later when serious concerns surrounded the participation of Oussama Assaidi, who played in the previous round against Naft Tehran complaint-free. The issue began with the signing of Moussa Sow.
Al-Ahli had all of Everton Ribeiro, Kwon Kyung-Won, Rodrigo Lima, Humam Tariq, Jociel Ciao, Moussa Sow and Oussama Assaidi in their ranks as foreigners. Humam Tariq was sent out on loan, Ciao not fit to play after a year-long injury and Moussa Sow who had arrived too late for the AFC Champions League registration window. Therefore it was decided: Oussama Assaidi would join Ribeiro, Lima and Kwon in Asia as the foreigner quartet while Moussa Sow played in the league.
No one, including the AFC and Naft Tehran, seemed to have an issue with what happened. Yet Al-Hilal managed to lodge a complaint and gain serious attention towards what they were doing. The pressure on both Yousef Al-Serkal and Al-Ahli mounted as the UAEFA had deleted Oussama Assaidi’s records off of their website (as Assaidi was no longer a player associated with UAE Football, just representing Al-Ahli continentally) making Al-Hilal’s argument seem concrete.
Al-Hilal continued, lodging an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport after the AFC rejected their complaint, to no avail. Yousef Al-Serkal had pompously congratulated Al-Ahli on their qualification to the final via his Twitter account, leaving Al-Hilal fans bewildered. Despite Al-Ahli’s win off the field, this posed a serious problem as to whether both the UAEFA and Al-Ahli are being run professionally.
Khamis Esmail | March 2016
After two years of mistakes made by both Al-Ahli and the UAEFA, one wonders how long will this saga go on for. Many people place the blame on Al-Ahli who seem to be the only club involved in every single situation over the last couple of years. However, the finger is also being pointed at the UAEFA by the media, the fans and the board of directors with the reason being that the UAEFA should be handling everything from top to bottom.
With the UAEFA Presidential Elections coming in thick and fast and Yousef Al-Serkal running for presidency once again, time (and a change at the top seat) will tell if the decisions being made are a result of his management or simply a clear lack of coordination between clubs and the UAEFA.
*All quotes obtained by The National